When Joanne Phillipp, of Mount Dora, went for her regular check-up with her primary care physician, she felt good with the exception of chronic acid reflux symptoms.
“My physician had been treating my GERD (gastroesophogeal reflux disease) for a while with medication,” explains Phillipp. “All of my lab tests were coming back normal and my blood pressure was perfect, but he referred me to a cardiologist to schedule a heart catheterization as the definitive test. A few days before my scheduled cath, I started to feel a little off. I was worried and felt like I should go to the ER.”
Phillipp listened to her instincts and went to the emergency department at Florida Hospital Waterman. An emergency heart catheterization showed multiple blockages in her coronary arteries and immediate surgery was recommended by cardiothoracic surgeon, Gary Allen, MD.
“Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is a surgical option for people who have severe coronary artery disease, a condition in which plaque builds up in the coronary arteries and reduces blood flow to the heart muscle,” explained Allen.
Bypass surgery typically requires the chest to be opened surgically, and a heart-lung bypass machine is used to circulate the blood and add oxygen while the heart is stopped during the grafting procedure. For some patients, off pump surgery may be an option. With this less invasive technique, the heart muscle is slowed with medication but is still beating during the procedure, circulating blood and oxygen on its own without the need for a heart-lung bypass machine. Phillipp had off-pump coronary artery bypass grafting surgery in early October and today she is back to playing catch with her grandson and planning to run in an Easter 5K sponsored by her church every year.
“I feel fantastic and I am very grateful,” says Phillipp. “I now know that women experience very different symptoms of heart attacks. The sharp pains and discomfort that I was attributing to my GERD were in fact symptoms of an impending attack. I don’t care how foolish you think you are being, if you feel like things aren’t right then mention it to your doctor right away. My doctors saved my life.”